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A real-life rocket launch

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Florida, USA

The odds of experiencing a real-life rocket launch were not in our favour, with only two days scheduled in Cape Canaveral during April when we were reunited with my lovely parents from Australia after five years to prepare for the transatlantic crossing to Europe for Summer.

Lo and behold, a rocket launch was organised on the day we had planned to visit the Kennedy Space Centre (KSC). Wayne was tickled pink, being the space nerd that he is!

We road-tripped our way from Miami to Cocoa Beach, just under four hours drive, nice and easy in the gigantic truck we had leased through our trusty SIXT. They upgraded us from the X5 to a GLS450. I am sure to feel part of the big American dream! Wayne was a legend in navigating the beast, as we called it, along the eight-lane highways.

The morning was upon us, and there was no encouragement in getting the boy up early. The rocket launch was scheduled for 8.18 a.m., so we popped to the rooftop for front-row seats whilst most other hotel guests lined the beach for the viewing. We had the countdown on, and it reached 0.00, and we all stilled and watched, but no action! The launch was aborted! We quickly refreshed our countdown, and lo and behold, we were still in luck. The new launch time was 10:30 a.m., giving us ample time to jump in the car for the KSC and watch the launch from a viewing platform.

After arriving, we quickly scoped out the viewing platform and found our positions; the visitor centre organised live commentary to walk you through the launch. He was valuable in helping you fully appreciate the experience, especially for launch virgins.

The countdown crept to 0.00, and it was on. We all looked up in the launchpad direction, and within milliseconds, we saw this blindingly incredible bright flame flying rapidly in the sky. You felt the roar of the engines; the crackle was intense, and the power of the speed as it quickly disappeared out of sight. It was an incredibly surreal experience and one we will hold with us for time to come. (See video above).

After the adrenaline of the launch settled, we took to the exhibits for a history lesson on the real-life tales of rocket launches. You will find the Saturn V and Atlantis Space Shuttle on display, which were quite the sight to see; the size is overwhelming, along with simulators for all to experience, although being a lunch day, it was busier than expected, and queues are not our thing, so we skipped out.

Mars rovers were also available for all to get their little eyes on; they were the same models currently crawling around Mars, with live streams of their findings as they crawled around and explored Mars.

The KSC is a fully visitor-funded complex, costs USD 80 per person, discounts are available for the seniors, and would you believe Wayne forgot he was over 55, total price for him!

Since December 1968, KSC has been NASA's primary launch centre of human spaceflight. About 700 facilities and buildings are grouped throughout the centre's 144,000 acres, of which less than 5% is used for the operations of KSC and shares a boundary with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast, where nature and technology co-exist.

The space centre uses only 6,000 acres, leaving the remaining land for the wildlife to enjoy in their natural habitats. The species of bird life was spectacular, with over 1500 species of plants and animals. We caught a glimpse of a bald eagle who has been nesting in the park for 30 years, and we even caught sight of a few alligators whilst driving by.

After a full day of exploring the centre, we were beaten. We skipped meeting the astronaut as we were fortunate to visit the KSC in 2014, so this was the second time around, and the rocket launch was the penultimate and has completed the space nerd's dreams!

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